Our 10 Favorite Rock Songs That Feature Cowbell At The Start

Our 10 Favorite Rock Songs That Feature Cowbell At The Start

Feature Photo: Alex Van Halen by Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

You can blame this one all on Christopher Walken. Even since that famous Saturday Night Light sketch, rock fans have paid more attention to songs that use the cowbell high in the mix. It’s hard to believe that sketch is over twenty-four years old as it first aired on April 8, 2000. Of course, the cowbell has played an important role in many classic rock songs released through the years. This list presents some of the most famous and some you may not have thought of until we mentioned them.

It would be easy to create a list with all the popular ones like “We’re An American Band,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” and all the rest of the well-known ones. But that’s all been done before. Here are ten that all those horrible new sites that dont even write their own material will not give you. There are so many fakes out there now. We are one of the last sites written by music fans and real journalists. We really appreciate all of you who continue to come to the site. We live rock and roll. It’s our life. What would be your picks?

# 10 – Darlington County

We open Our 10 Favorite Rock Songs That Feature Heavy Cowbell list with the Bruce Springsteen road song “Darlington County.” I remember listening to the Born In The U.S.A  tape in my car in 1984 as I was driving on 95 from New York to Florida. Just as this song came on, I saw a sign that said “Darlington County, in South Carolina which completely blew my mind. There is such a thing as coincidence, but something about that moment seemed more than just coincidence. I was a musician looking for gigs, possibly down in Fort Lauderdale or Miami, heading to what I thought would be a new life. I was back in New York in six months. You can’t get good pizza in Florida, or at least you couldn’t back then. I really liked Florida, but I’m as New York as it gets, and I just can’t live anywhere else.

Read More: Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Albums

# 9 – Calling Dr Love – Kiss

We are now on a Kiss kick after interviewing Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer. While Tommy didn’t play on this one as he was not part of the band back then, we really wanted to showcase one of our favorite Kiss songs from one of our most loved Kiss albums. “Calling Dr. Love,” was released on the spectacular Kiss album entitled Rock And Roll Over. It’s cool how many Kiss fans love this album. Many of them say it’s their favorite, too. The album was released in 1976.

Read More: Tommy Thayer: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

# 8 – Rock N Roll – The Runaways

I was 15 when I walked into a record store and saw the cover of the Runaway’s debut album in 1976. I had never heard of the band before but bought it anyway because it looked cool. I placed it on my turntable and instantly fell in love with the band. They were raw, but so was I. There are a lot of songs in the Runways repertoire that start with the cowbell. There is something about the cowbell in basic rock and roll music that feels right. Looking back at the band as someone who developed a musical year over the years, I still love their music. It’s as genuine as it gets.

Read More: Top 10 Runaways Songs

# 7 – Poor Poor Pitiful Me – Linda Ronstadt

In the number seven position is the brilliant song entitled “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.” Warren Zevon originally wrote the song, but it would become a hit a couple of years later when the beautiful Linda Ronstadt recorded a version of it. For the most part, when Linda Ronstadt records one of your songs, it will become bigger than yours ever was. Can anyone say Buddy Holly? Linda Ronstadt released the song on her Simple Dreams album in 1978. This one is all cowbell and nothing else at the start.

Read More: Top 10 Linda Ronstadt Songs That Leave You Breathless

# 6 –  Fat Man In The Bath Tub – Little Feat

Everyone loves Little Feat. A few years ago, I went to see Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Westbury Music Fair. They were playing with Little Feat. Since the Westbury Music Fair is in New York, I expected it to be an audience filled with mostly Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes fans. I was shocked when most of the audience was there for Little Feat. Of course, that makes sense since Little Feat is one of the most loved rock and roll bands. Both bands were great, and the show became one of the best concerts I had ever seen. In the Little Feat song “Fat Man In The Bath Tub,” the cowbell is a little bit lower in the mix than in most songs, but it plays a significant role in the tune’s rhythm.

Read More: Top 10 Little Feat Songs

# 5 – Don’t Misunderstand Me – Rossington Collins Band

After the plane crash had ended the musical career of our loved and cherished band Lynyrd Skynyrd, at least for the moment, fans of the band were thrilled to learn of the formation of a new band called The Rossington Collins Band. The group wasn’t attempting to reform Lynyrd Skynyrd because it didn’t seem appropriate then. Instead, former band members Gary Rossington, Alan Collins, Leon Wilkeson, and Billy Powell formed a new band. They added Dale Krantz on lead vocals, Barry Lee Harwood on lead & rhythm guitars, and Derek Hess on drums. The band’s first single that we feature in our cowbell article is called “Don’t Misunderstand Me,” and it became a big FM radio hit for the group. It was good to have them back.

Read More: Top 10 Rossington Collins Band Songs

# 4  – Gimme Three Steps – Lynyrd Skynyrd

And speaking of Lynyrd Skynyrd. At the number four spot on our Our 10 Favorite Rock Songs That Feature Heavy Cowbell list, we present the legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd song entitled Gimme Three Steps.  The song was released on the album entitled (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd). The album was released in 1973. It was the band’s debut album. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zandt and Alan Collins wrote the song.

Read More: Top 10 Lynyrd Skynyrd Songs

# 3 – Little Willy – Sweet

I remember hearing “Little Willy” on the radio all the time when I was 12 years old in 1973. I had no idea what the song was about, but I knew I really liked it. It was extremely catchy, and that’s probably why it became a top 10 hit, actually peaking at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song would eventually be released on Sweet’s debut album. A few years later, when I started to get into rock and roll full time and discovered Sweet for real when I purchased Desolation Boulevard, I was pretty surprised to see that they were the same band that had done the song “Little Willy” a few years earlier.

Read More: Top 10 Sweet Songs

# 2 – Dance The Night Away – Van Halen

The way that Alex Van Halen played drums, there were a lot of songs in Van Halen’s repertoire that featured cowbell. I had always thought that the song Dance the Night Away was a cover song because it sounded like an old Motown tune. I was pretty surprised to find out that it was a Van Halen original. The song was released as the first single from the album Van Halen II. If Van Halen fans didn’t notice Michael Anthony’s soon-to-be-legendary backing vocals from their first album, they definitely took notice on this one.

Read More: Top 10 Van Halen Songs

# 1 – Mississippi Queen

We close out the list of Our 10 Favorite Rock Songs That Feature Heavy Cowbell with the classic Mountain song entitled Mississippi Queen. I think it’s fair to say that Leslie West may be one of the most underrated rock and roll guitar players in classic rock history. Of course, there were many who gave him his due, especially during the time when he was releasing albums with Mountain. It was always enjoyable to listen to Leslie West on the Howard Stern Show over the years. He is surely one that is missed.

Read More: Top 10 Mountain Songs

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar Baybluesman May 6, 2024
    • Avatar Brian Kachejian May 6, 2024
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